President Joe Biden is facing mounting pressure to lift blanket COVID-19 travel bans and quickly reopen the US borders to international tourists given vaccination rates are increasing and Americans can now travel freely to Europe.
Travel industry and public health experts are among those urging the Biden administration to restart international travel because bans like the ones currently in place are ‘no longer appropriate’ and are decimating the economy.
The US border remains closed to 26 European countries, the UK, Iran, China, South Africa, Brazil and India because of COVID-19 concerns.
Some of the border bans – such as the ones imposed on the EU, UK and China – have not been updated since they were put in place back in March 2020 when the pandemic first took hold.
Since then, COVID-19 vaccinations have accelerated and deaths and hospitalizations from the virus have drastically declined. While the Indian delta variant is now spreading rapidly and accounts for 26 percent of cases in the US, vaccines still appear to be highly effective in preventing deaths and hospitalizations.
The EU reopened its borders to American tourists last month just in time for summer travel.
President Biden is facing mounting pressure to lift blanket COVID-19 travel bans and quickly reopen the US borders to international tourists given the rising number of people being vaccinated against COVID-19. Pictured above is New York’s JFK airport at the weekend. The EU reopened its borders to American tourists last month just in time for summer travel
Travel industry and public health experts are among those urging the Biden administration to restart international travel given vaccination rates are rising and Americans can now freely travel to Europe
Some of the border bans – such as the ones imposed on the EU, UK and China – have not been updated since they were put in place back in March 2020 when the pandemic first took hold. Since then, COVID-19 vaccinations have accelerated and deaths and hospitalizations from the virus have drastically declined
COUNTRIES ON THE US RESTRICTED LIST
Pandemic restrictions on travel between Canada and the US loosened first the time on Tuesday with double-jabbed Canadian citizens and permanent residents now excused from 14 days of quarantine for essential travel.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said plans to totally reopen the US-Canada border will be announced in the coming weeks and a ban on non-essential trips will remain in place until at least July 21.
The US, however, has made no similar announcements about lifting its restrictions for international tourists – prompting outrage from policy experts and the travel industry.
At least 67 percent of adult Americans have received at least one COVID vaccine shot, which is short of Biden’s 70 percent goal by July 4. Biden is now launching a neighborhood campaign in unvaccinated areas to boost the numbers.
Some experts argue that there is a lack of consistency with the current bans given Americans – as well as some visa holders – are allowed to travel freely to most parts of the world and return back to the US.
‘It’s time to lift the blanket bans across the globe,’ Steve Shur, who is president of the Travel Technology Association, told DailyMail.com.
Shur, whose organization partners with travel agents, airlines and hotels, said the blanket ban is no longer relevant and should be ‘risk-based’ instead.
‘It has to be based on risk – a country level risk assessment. Blanket bans aren’t appropriate at this stage,’ he said.
‘Given the rapid pace of vaccine rates, we think it’s reasonable and feasible to ease some of the restrictions in parts of the world.’
He argued that the ban between the US and the UK should be quickly lifted because both countries have similar vaccination rates.
Fifty percent of the population in the UK have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The US has fully vaccinated 47 percent of its population.
The US border remains closed to 26 European countries, the UK, Iran, China, South Africa, Brazil and India because of COVID-19 concerns. Some of the border bans have not been updated since they were put in place back in March 2020 when the pandemic first took hold
Infections are currently spiking in the UK due to the highly contagious delta variant. At the start of June, the UK was averaging 3,300 cases a day. That number has shot up to 24,000 cases per day as of this week – a 627 percent increase.
The Biden administration has made no announcement about its plan to lift restrictions – prompting outrage from policy experts and the travel industry
While experts believe the new Delta strain is more infectious, vaccines still appear to be highly effective in preventing hospital admissions and death.
In the UK, for example, although there were 27,334 new cases of the virus yesterday, only nine people died. Meanwhile, 99 percent of people dying in the US have not been vaccinated, according to chief White House medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci.
Shur added that proof of vaccination, negative COVID tests and mask mandates are among the ways in which authorities can feasibly and safely lift travel bans for certain countries.
‘Whatever is appropriate for the risk factor for each country… in place of the blanket bans that are in place today,’ he said.
‘The lack of clarity from the administration on this topic has delayed the rollout of international travel. I know the administration is working on it but it’s too late. The industry is really hoping for a road map.’
Other experts say choosing which countries to add to the travel restriction list based on current outbreaks is nonsensical because the virus, including the delta variant, is likely already spreading throughout the country.
India, South Africa and Brazil were only added to the travel ban list when variants of COVID-19 started to spike in those countries in recent months.
Those bans weren’t put in place until weeks after variants of the virus started spreading in countries such as the UK.
Infections are currently spiking in the UK due to the highly contagious delta variant. While experts believe the new Delta strain is more infectious, vaccines still appear to be highly effective in preventing hospital admissions and death. While there were 27,334 new cases of the virus yesterday, nine nine people died
‘It makes no sense, if you look at that list of countries, it’s completely nonsensical,’ said Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law, told The Hill.
‘Even if you could accurately pick and choose, which you really can’t, by the time you’ve implemented the policy it’s changed.
‘If we want to get anywhere near back to normal, we can’t live in a bubble. We’re going to have to start international travel, tourism and trade, as other countries recognize. But we want to do it safely.’
Gostin said the safest way forward would be to ensure travelers have been fully vaccinated.
‘I think using a vaccine passport system, and if somebody is not vaccinated then a very recent SARS-CoV-2 test result would be important, to make sure that the United States is safe,’ he said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as recently as last month that he couldn’t confirmed n when international travel could be restored to the US.
‘I can’t put a date on it,’ Blinken said on June 25 during a press conference with France’s foreign minister.
‘I can tell you we’re working very actively on this right now, and we are – like France, like our other partners in Europe – both anxious and looking forward to restoring travel.
‘But we have to be guided by the science. We have to be guided by medical expertise.’
The White House has repeatedly refused to answer questions about lifting the travel ban.
Experts say that behind the scenes the Biden administration is hesitant to allow travel from one of the banned countries without allowing it to resume from all of them including India, which is the most recent country to be added to the list.
The number of new infections in Canada is at 13.5 per million people. Daily deaths in Canada are currently at 0.4 per million. The country has fully vaccinated 36 percent of its population and 32 percent have been partly vaccinated
The number of deaths and cases per day remain low in Italy with 12 daily cases per million people and 0.4 deaths per million. Italy has fully vaccinated 34 percent of its population
The number of daily cases in Spain have spiked since late last month. The country is now recording an average of 225 new cases per million people each day. Deaths, however, remain low with 0.4 fatalities per million people. Spain has vaccinated 41 percent of its population
France’s daily infections are currently at 35 per million people. Deaths are 0.4 per million. The country has fully vaccinated 33 percent of its population
The number of infections in India has dropped considerably since the country was ravaged by a variant of the virus earlier this year. Currently, the country is recording 31 new cases per million, which is down from the record 283 per million in May. India has fully vaccinated 4.7 percent of its population
Biden to launch neighborhood campaigns in unvaccinated areas after falling short of July 4 goal
President Joe Biden on Tuesday will call for people to go door-to-door to spread the word about COVID vaccines after he fell short of his July 4 vaccination targets and cases tied to the Delta variant are on the rise.
Biden will speak about the pandemic from the White House after he failed to hit his goal of having 70 percent of adults partially vaccinated by Independence Day. At least 67% of adult Americans have received one shot.
Meanwhile cases tied to the Delta variant are at 26 percent.
In his remarks, the president will described targeted efforts of ‘door to door outreach to get the remaining Americans vaccinated,’ according to a White House official.
He will also push adolescents ages 12 to 18 can get vaccinated as they go for ‘back to school’ checks ups or get ready for fall sports.
The White House official also pointed out that, by the end of the week, the U.S. will be nearing 160 million people fully vaccinated. Biden had set the 160 million mark as another July 4th goal.
It is only increasing the frustration among those within the travel industry who say one of the biggest issues is that they need time to prepare.
Back in May, the CEOs of 22 major airlines begged Biden to give them a timeline that would allow them to reopen in July.
They said there are multiple issues that need to be considered, including staffing airline routes, checking that fleets of planes that haven’t been used for months are still safe, replacing thousands of rental cars that have been sold and bringing back hotel staff.
The ban has also created a nightmare scenario for immigrants and families who have been separated since the restrictions were put in place 18 months ago.
Canada, which banned all tourists from March 2020, loosened restrictions for the first time on Monday.
Commercial air traffic has gone back and forth normally between the Canada and the US since the start of the pandemic.
Canadians are able to fly into the US with a negative COVID-19 test and Americans can visit Canada to see relatives or close friends as outlined by a strict set of guidelines.
But to do that, people entering Canada must quarantine for two weeks on arrival and the quarantine is enforced by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
‘We’re very hopeful that we’re going to see new steps on reopening announced in the coming weeks,’ Prime Minister Trudeau said at a news conference in Ontario regarding the loosened restrictions.
‘We’re going to make sure that we’re not seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases because nobody wants to go back to further restrictions, after having done so much and sacrificed so much to get to this point.’
Julia Dunn, who landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport from the US while on her way to Halifax, said she was glad the restrictions had eased.
‘It’s very freeing being able to get home to family without having to spend those two weeks alone,’ she said.
Dunn, a Canadian citizen but now lives in Houston, said she booked her trip to Canada after learning about the planned easing of quarantine rules a few weeks ago.
Trudeau said he understands how eager people are to see the border reopen but noted that the pandemic continues and ‘things aren’t normal yet.’
‘Nobody wants us to move too fast and have to reimpose restrictions as case numbers rise like we’re seeing elsewhere in the world,’ he said. ‘We need to do this right.’